I’m so glad many of us enjoyed the very succinct and on-topic poem yesterday. I was glad I’d come across it. Amos Russel Wells is actually a new-to-me poet as well; he was a professor of Greek and geology at for the first part of his professional career, and ended it as editor of a religious magazine. He was also a fairly dedicated Sunday School teacher, and apparently loved children. His book, Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters, first published in 1902, is where today’s poem comes from. You can see the Sunday School teacher/hymn writer in this verse.
Many words are lightly tossed,
Only cowards mind them,
Opportunities are “lost” –
Rouse yourself, and find them!
Some are lost for aye and aye,
But the most are hiding –
*Cars the switch has found are they
Take them from the siding!*
Past is past, the chance is gone? –
Up, and follow after!
Many a noble race is run
Despite sneers and laughter.
Opportunities are “lost”?
Aren’t there legs behind them?
Boldly run, nor count the cost,
Speed until you find them!
*”Cars the switch has lost” refers to train cars that are shunted to a different track when the switch is thrown.
This is a sort of bracing hope that is really old-fashioned and brought to you by people who lived through wars and upheaval and didn’t have time for self-pity. No such thing as opportunities “lost,” to them… just a need to be up and doing. Here’s to that bracing, gingery, spit and vinegar.
I’ve run out of words.
Fortunately, there’s poetry.
Poetry Friday today is hosted by Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children. Thank you, Sylvia.
Country of Freedom
Country of freedom, be free in thy heart:
Free from the shackles of poisoning pride,
Free from the liar’s contemptible art,
Free from allurements that tempt thee aside,
Free from the crafty and treacherous guide,
Free from the ravening greed of the mart,
Free from the snares that in opulence hide, —
Country of freedom be free in thy heart.
— Amos Russel Wells (1863-1933)
I found it just a bit ironic that I blogged yesterday about anger before I got on social media or read the paper, or heard anything about the attempted coup at the nation’s Capitol. After hearing nineteen million politicians blurt, “This isn’t who we are!” I feel like it’s a good day to resurrect a poem I wrote in 2017… after the first nineteen million times I heard politicians say this phrase, in defense of this indefensible presidency. Enjoy.
“…this is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.” – Ursula K. LeGuin, THE FARTHEST SHORE, Ch. 8
“you may experience feelings of momentary discomfort”
“This is not who we are,” good souls profess.
“This brief discomfort heralds changing views.”
The dream, America, is dispossessed.
And politicians wallow in the mess
Eyes rolling wild, while looking for their cues —
“This is not who we are.” Good souls profess
To understand the needs of the oppressed,
Who are not newly pressured, but eschew
The “dream America.” We, dispossessed.
“Just rhetoric and chatter,” pundits stress.
“A bigot’s dreams could never here come true.”
This IS. Not who we are? Good souls, profess!
Resist. Support, with dogged faithfulness
Those who, with courage march. We must push through
the dream and wake our country, in distress.
Distracted by your grieving? Reassess
Comfort you proffered those who are not you…
This. Is. Not. Who. We. Are. Good souls, protect
The dreamer, wakening, and dispossessed.
I’ve blogged before about how many times girls are taught that anger is “being ugly,” thus setting anger as antithetical to being somehow properly attractive/womanly or whatnot. It’s always so bizarre when you don’t think you’ve been raised with any slant in particular, and then hear yourself prevaricating when someone asks you if you’re angry. “No, I’m not mad, I’m just upset. I’m a little vexed, yes. I’m frustrated. I’m aggravated.” Yeah. I’m also pretty torqued, ticked off, peeved, furious and properly raging as well – but it’s not nice to say so, apparently.
It’s always a little breath-taking to realize that you are mad about something when it’s deep-seated, private, almost even from yourself, and catches you off-guard. You stumble out of a conversation, panting like a marathon-runner, and wonder, bewildered, “Where did all this rage come from?”
I suspect the rage is a more common epiphany than one might think.
Who Said It Was Simple
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
– Audre Lourde
Real life is distracting, contradictory, full of issues of competing importance, and thoroughly messy. This messy, conflicting ball of emotions is also worth examination, if one is to live well.
Good luck with that.
Here we are – with the year started, and all the mechanisms of society or progress or whatever you want to call it, starting up again, like a balky, failing engine we never should have turned off, because now it needs jumper cables and whispered prayers. Here we are, in a world where bills are coming due, but no jobs are necessarily materializing. Here we are, in a month where hospitals in our area are treating people in the gift shop, and the EMT’s are no longer bringing in emergency cases, making judgment calls about who will and will not survive. Here we are, in a state of being we know isn’t particularly sustainable, and there are orange nasturtiums standing erect and bright in the cold, and the Anna’s hummingbirds have arrived, and the activity around the feeder is wild and unconstrained. Here we are, with the unexpected, occasionally diverting us from the present which is bleak.
Life Is Not What You
expected — cows
ruminate by the highway
even in rain or bat their
ears forward and back and how
you thought the story of your life
would get told: the children you thought
you’d already have by now partially grown
books and other accomplishments — houses
owned cities seen lakes traversed — and now
we’re stuck in traffic
and it’s not even rush hour
with the hurricane storm
moving slowly north from Alabama.
How come it’s raining here already
somewhere south of Albany — just one
damned thing after another and those
injections you’ve had to give yourself and
your dad’s bypass surgery. Just look:
Evening primrose all along the roadside match
the painted line and Queen Anne’s lace
on the other side rows of young corn
joe-pye weed blurred to Scottish heather.
When you go for a walk blackberries have started
ripening you pluck two
from each bush notice tadpoles suck air
along the fountain’s rim. Such small swishings
of joy maybe
this is it — every day puts forth a new song deer flies
dive-bombing your head when the breeze
lets up —
Notice, this is what we’ve always had – a new song, a susurration of starlings, a rainbow from a prism hung in a window – steady sources of illumination and comfort in a world gone dark and cold. Notice, and keep looking.
ready or not
A poem went looking for its author.
“Ready or not, here I am,” announced the poem.
“Just a minute,” replied the author.
He selected three new pencils and sharpened them
and set them in a neat row on his desk. Next he strolled
to the kitchen to boil water. While his tea was steeping,
he brushed his teeth, washed behind his ears, and clipped
a few stray hairs from his mustache. Then, teacup in
hand, he returned to his study. He arranged himself
at his desk, picked up a pencil, and prepared to write.
The poem had slipped away, without a word.
– Bruce Bennett
I love the National Cathedral, though I’ve only been there once. I’ve spent much more times in the cathedrals of Europe – and its small parish churches, and its village halls. I love old church architecture and interesting new twists on it. And it’s all equally, genuinely lovely first thing in the morning. That’s one of the best things – to be on a trip somewhere and to get up before the traffic snarls and the commuters are hurrying with their coffee, and just… look up. Look around. And see how the light changes things.
Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
Good morning! May the light of the day put you in the proper mood to begin anew.
Last Thursday, I stood in a driveway – properly masked and distanced – with my mother and a couple of sisters, my brother, and nephews for the first time since March of last year. We all have different distancing protocols and needs, and it’s safest for us to be away from each other, or outside for fifteen or twenty minutes – but it was lovely to see them not on a screen. And it was still so hard not to hug… which is one of the other reasons we don’t meet often. Somehow, I ended up in a family of huggers.
I’d forgotten how fast boy-children grow, and was slightly horrified to see my youngest nephew the same height as his mother. I’d forgotten my mother’s penchant for wearing Ugg-adjacent boots, and laughed at the furry Muppet-style vibe she was giving. I’d forgotten how long my sister was growing out her hair – and that my youngest sister had stopped dyeing hers for a minute. It’s weird, what you forget when you’re not seeing each other every week. But, what we remember, of course, is obvious.
I forget these things –
where a trail begins,
where a trail ends.
I forget these things –
white of dawn,
and sun-going down.
I forget these things –
hunger for piki,
thirst for the springs ….
But I forget not you,
with the night.
– William Haskell Simpson